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Digital Britain Report – UK Illegal File Sharing Solution Proposals
By: MarkJ - 29 January, 2009 (3:00 PM)

The government will force UK ISPs to warn customers suspected of involvement with illegal file sharing of copyrighted (c) content. The proposal is part of Lord Carters new Digital Review, which will also require Internet access providers to disclose related customer details. These could then be made available to copyright owners for possible legal action, although it would still require a warrant to be produced first:

Digital Britain Report:

Our response to the consultation on peer-to-peer file sharing sets out our intention to legislate, requiring ISPs to notify alleged infringers of rights (subject to reasonable levels of proof from rights- holders) that their conduct is unlawful. We also intend to require ISPs to collect anonymised information on serious repeat infringers (derived from their notification activities), to be made available to rights-holders together with personal details on receipt of a court order. We intend to consult on this approach shortly, setting out our proposals in detail.

Unlike earlier proposals for a “three-strikes and you’re out (disconnected)” system (To Ban or Not to Ban (Illegal File Sharers)), the new method will not require ISPs to forcibly disconnect repeat offenders. The move is being seen as a response to BERR’s recent failure to find a voluntary co-regulatory solution to the problem, thus forcing the government into carrying out its threat of imposing a legislative solution.

Carters review doesn’t stop there though and hints at another method that could involve increasing the broadband cost for everybody via an additional charge (tax) on monthly bills. The extra revenue from such a hike would then be used to compensate music and film companies for their piracy related losses.

However the review does not specifically detail such an idea directly, preferring instead to talk about generalised funding solutions. Perversely such a tax would not make online piracy any less illegal, yet could run the risk of encouraging illegal downloading by fostering a “haven’t we already paid for it now?” mentality; effectively requiring even innocent individuals to pay for the criminal mistakes of others.

Then there are the practical issues, such as how you manage the system and deal with the complicated “who gets what?” question. We suspect there’d be no shortage of groups vying for a slice of the cash pie. Full details and conclusions will surface later this spring when Carter publishes his final report.

Finally a new ‘Rights Agency’ has been proposed, which would act as an intermediary between ISPs and the creative industry. This organisation would help to develop incentives for legal use of copyright material (e.g. special ISP music services) and work with both sides to develop anti-piracy solutions.

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